This summer at Grace we’ve had to say goodbye to many people who’ve moved away for one reason or another. For me the hardest goodbye was seeing our daughter – our first-born – leave home to spend eight months in New Zealand. Meredith will be living with one family and helping another family with homeschooling their children. Then, Lord willing, she’ll return home next Spring to prepare for college. How is it that 17 years have passed since that day in suburban Philadelphia when we brought our new baby girl home from the hospital, snuggly strapped into her car seat behind us in the Camry?
I’m very proud of the godly young woman Meredith has grown to be, so grateful for her faith in Christ; and I trust she is in the perfect care of her Heavenly Father. I remember that our goal as parents is to see our children grow into responsible adults, and I believe this experience of leaving home for a time will be a big step for Meredith in that direction. Even so, it was sad to say goodbye – not only because we’ll miss her, but also because her departure marked the end of her growing-up years in our family. She’ll never be “our little girl” in the same way she once was. But as Ecclesiastes says, there is “a time to keep, and a time to cast away” (Ecclesiastes 3:6). We need wisdom and grace to recognize the time when we can no longer keep our children, but for their own good and for the fulfillment of God’s gracious purposes in their lives we must be ready to let them go.
This past Sunday I preached on one of the most memorable passages from Luke, the account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary in Luke 11:38-42. How naturally we identify with Martha in this passage! She’s immersed in frenetic activity, doing all the work that (she thinks, at least) must be done to provide a proper reception for the Lord and whatever guests accompanied him. Meanwhile her sister Mary isn’t lifting a finger to help. Rather, she’s sitting at the feet of Jesus, taking in his every word. When Martha finally complains to Jesus about her goldbricker of a sister, demanding him tell Mary to help her with the work, Jesus gently rebukes Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her” (vs. 41, 42).
By nature we’re like Martha – we succumb to a frantic busyness in our lives that distracts us from Jesus, and keeps us from sitting still in his presence and immersing ourselves in his Word. We do so out of pride – somehow we think our frenzied activity is a sign of our worth and importance. Or the fear of man keeps us from saying “no” to the requests and demands of others. Another reason we get caught up in ceaseless activity is that the silence frightens us: the white noise of busyness helps to drown the small voice of conscience. Yet another cause of our busyness is what C. S. Lewis observed – we’re busy because we’re lazy. Instead of exerting the effort and exercising the self-discipline it takes to manage our time well, we passively let our time get crammed with all kinds of needless diversions and distractions.
For most Christians most of the time, though, I believe that we imitate Martha because, like her, we confuse busyness with faithfulness. To be sure, faithfulness to Christ involves hard work and activity. But it begins by quietly coming into the presence of Christ and hearing his Word (and one way God provides for us to do just that is in the public worship of him on the Lord’s Day). If you are too busy to sit still before Jesus, or to pray, or to worship him, you are too busy. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your activity, but your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). So don’t settle for the harried busyness of Martha that robbed her of joy and peace, but like Mary choose the good portion – make time to sit still at the feet of Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!